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London bombing survivors demand public inquiry

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) Survivors of last year's London bombings, which killed 52 travellers and wounded more than 700 on the capital's transport system, say vital questions remain unanswered by the British government.

Commuters who escaped when four British men detonated bombs in rucksacks on three underground trains and a bus last July 7 want a full independent public inquiry, arguing that little has been done to prevent further deadly strikes.

''I know there will be another attack. I know we are no safer,'' said Rachel North, 35, who was on a packed Piccadilly Line carriage blown up by Jermaine Lindsay near Russell Square station, killing 26 commuters.

''It's not about assigning blame. It's not about politics. It's simply we were really lucky more people didn't die and it's about trying to stop more people dying in future.'' Unlike the United States which held a wide-ranging inquiry following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government has resisted calls to hold a similar investigation.

Ministers argue that it would distract the security services when they need to concentrate on thwarting any more attacks.

''The Home Secretary (interior minister John Reid) does not believe the public inquiry would add to our understanding of the causes of those atrocities,'' a ministry spokeswoman said, noting there had been parliamentary inquiries into the bombings.

The interior ministry published a report in May detailing events of the bombings, the first suicide attacks in western Europe, but it has left angry survivors far from satisfied.

''None of us want to compromise the security of the nation and obviously there are things that can't be disclosed,'' said Jacqui Putnam, who was in the next carriage to the bombers' suspected ringleader, Mohammad Sidique Khan.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ''But there are other things, questions that should be answered that need to be answered publicly. There are people whose lives will never be the same, the bereaved who have lost their loved ones -- we need answers,'' she said.

A parliamentary report revealed that British security services had previously come across two of the bombers, Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, on the margins of another terrorism probe but had not believed they were significant.

But newspaper reports have suggested the men had come under closer scrutiny, fuelling accusations of a cover-up.

The survivors say there needs to be closer public examination of these and other issues, such as the bombers' motivation and what links they had to al Qaeda or militant groups in Britain.

''We have a group of people who were born here, this is their home, they are English and yet they feel disenfranchised. Why?'' Putnam told Reuters.

''Why did they feel they were attacking the enemy and not their homeland? Is anybody looking at that, is anybody interested in changing that?'' ''The big question is always 'why'?'' said Kirsty Jones, a 38-year-old designer who was also on the Piccadilly Line train.

''July 7 was so extraordinary that it is puzzling there has been no inquiry.'' Survivors say an inquiry would help the emergency services, whose response was hindered by poor communications, show up mistakes and galvanise pressure to act on the lessons learned.

''If it happened again, what would be done differently? As far as I can see, we are not doing anything,'' Putnam added.

REUTERS SK RN0846

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